POP QUIZ: DUANE PETERS & GREG KUEHN

Duane Peters and the Great Unwashed - Beautiful Tragedy

BAND: DUANE PETERS & THE GREAT UNWASHED
MUSICIANS: DUANE PETERS (DP) & GREG KUEHN (GREG)

When we released Juice Magazine SK8TRACKS Volume 3, we also introduced you to Duane Peters’ new project, Duane Peters and the Great Unwashed. We spoke with band members Duane Peters and Greg Kuehn to get the real deal behind the music (minus the cheese TV dramatizations).

How’s it going?
DP: Good. How’s it going with you?

It’s going pretty good. I’m on the East Coast in a rainstorm.
DP: Oh, wow. where are you?

I’m over at our North Carolina office.
DP: Okay. Cool. So it’s all rainy over there right now?

Yeah. It’s all damp and cold outside.
DP: Are you by Wilmington?

Yep. That’s where I am.
DP: God, I love it there. It’s the best. How cold is it right now? It’s not snowy? It never snows there, right?

No. It’s been pretty nice. It’s been in the 60s and now it’s in the 40s and it’s raining, but it’s not too bad.
DP: That place is great. If I was going to move to the East Coast, out of all the places I’ve been touring, Wilmington is the place I’d go. How far are you from New York? Is it like five or six hours?

It’s something like that. It’s cool because it’s halfway in between north and south, so no matter where you want to go, it’s the same amount of drive.
DP: Right. Does Reggie Barnes still have his bowl there and Is that skatepark still going? Is it the Skate Barn?

Oh, yeah. The Skate Barn in Hampstead. They’ve got two outdoor ramps and a street section inside the barn with lots of transition and a bowl in there too. Those guys are cool. Reggie has his bowl there at Eastern Skate Supply too.
Rad. I like that spot.

So we were talking about your new music project. First of all, thank so much for putting the track on the Juice Sk8Tracks download. We’ve had a couple of thousand downloads so far and everyone is psyched on your project. The feedback we’ve been getting is that it sounds different from the stuff you’ve done before, so I wanted to know how you got there. How many bands have you been in so far?
DP: Aw, shit. Maybe 20-25 bands. Greg, do you know how many bands you’ve been in?

GREG: A bunch. Some of them do more than others. Some of them you make records with and some you don’t.

[Laughs] Right.
DP: Yeah. What counts as a band? We’ve both been in a lot of bands, but Greg and I have known each other and of each other for a long time. He ended up working on the last Die Hunns record, doing some keys on that.

GREG: Yeah, that was our first time actually working together. We played some shows. There were some Die Hunns/ T.S.O.L. shows and stuff too. We did that Key Club thing. I knew about Duane, but we just didn’t know each other. I was a fan. Through doing the album, we got to know each other a little bit more. That’s when I started thinking about doing something with him musically. Time went by, and we had a couple of ideas for things that might be cool for him to sing on. We had that song “Wasteland.” That was the first one. I just started thinking about a good idea for a song for Duane. What would be a cool thing to do? I was also looking for something cool to do musically. I mean, where do you go from here? What do you do when you’re in your late 40s and you’re an old punk rock guy? It’s fun to play that kind of music. There are still Bombs shows and  T.S.O.L. shows and stuff like that, but on the other side of the coin, we were thinking about what else we could do. We both loved Tom Waits, Nick Cave, The Pogues and Charles Bukowski, so it was that whole thing and what we could do with all that stuff, so that’s how it started.

I was listening to some new Bob Dylan. He’s been doing a bunch of performances and stuff lately, and the last song I heard from him, had a similar sound to what you’re working on. I liked yours better, but do you think the more folk music trend is coming back?
GREG: Thank you. Yeah, I guess so. You can still have an impact, without having guitars on ten, you know? We played around with different instruments and stuff. I mean, we’re all dying, so the lyrics aren’t all that different than punk rock tunes but, we were doing it with different sounds and playing different instruments.

DP: It sounds street. The production is definitely better, but it still sounds street.  The poetry and lyrics and the grit and the core of the song is good. It’s got some grit and then it changes and there are these real songs.

GREG: Duane and I have been doing things in different ways separately.

DP: I know you did some really dark stuff with Jack. The last dark stuff I did was in ’84 with Michael Belfour in San Francisco in a band called Fire Sports. That was just because of the times and the guy I was working with. He was pretty dark guy. Greg is pretty dark with hooks. Belflour was pretty dark without hooks. That’s kind of hard to sell. Although you’re not really trying to sell anything when you’re really young. You don’t really care. At that time, music was so new and experimental. I mean, how many P.I.L. records have no hook? Lydon was like, “I’m against hooks. I don’t want a hook.” When I was a kid, I thought that was so genius, but it ended up killing him. He had to go back to being Johnny Rotten for the public. After they got the punk band back together, he was  three million ahead.

[Laughs] Right.
GREG: Yeah. The other thing is that you get to be better songwriters as time goes by too. You try to craft a record that is good and has meaningful songs that say something. Sometimes its a little more sensitive than people might expect out of Duane but you know, he’s actually a pretty sensitive guy. It was fun to do this record. We just approached it from the standpoint of, “Let’s make this a really good thing that’s gratifying creatively.” We went that way instead of thinking about what our single was going to be. Because who knows? The music business is all over the map. It can’t figure it out, so there’s no point in trying or whoring it out or calculating it to the point where it’s like, “This is going to be a hit song.” It was just like, “Whatever Let’s just write some songs that we like with some sounds that we dig and do it with Duane’s cool voice and do whatever feels right to us. We investigated some different song areas, so that’s been the fun part of it. We just wanted to write some good songs and make them sound cool.

Who is responsible for most of the lyrics?
DP: Greg. We ended up co-writing like mad at the end.

GREG: Some of the songs early on were me just banging a whole song together and then singing it to get an idea for the song, and then Duane would come and sing it. In the end, we were both writing.

That’s cool.
DP: We were both kind of past the point of “Who wrote the lyrics?” It’s just the nitpicking politics of a band in their first ten records. I’m 24 or 25 records in. Greg, you’re in the same zone of 29 or 30 records. You get past those points eventually. You always think your ego will never let you get past that, especially me, but when I have to listen to my catalog of songs, that’s really your best judgment, after you’re way out of the record. It already happened years ago, and you’ve done lots of other records since then. That’s when you’re the best judge. It’s like, “Who the fuck did this?” Or it’s like, “Wow. That’s a great song.” Most of my mess ups are when I took control. I was the one in charge. I let the simpler melody go. I needed to do the lyrics and I bungled it up with a bunch of my talking. The way I talk, is that it’s way too much to edit and I needed a guy like Greg that can filter me. He’s like, “Hey, you want to let the guitar player breath.” You have different backgrounds with different songwriting people, so it can be war in the studio in a band, especially if you’re signed to a record deal. It gets that weird. It can be me against that guy, that other songwriter. It’s that whole hometown hero mentality. There’s so much to music and chemistry and all that stuff. Our chemistry didn’t really start happening until three or four months ago. It happened right off the bat, but I kinda wasn’t really there. I lost a kid during the whole process, and Greg has kids, so he wrote me this song right after my kid died. It was just like, “Are you fucking kidding me man?” It brought me so in the moment. I really needed a reason to live. I was going through all that stuff and Greg was a real bro. Fuck the songs. He was like, “Man, how are you doing today?” And then it was like, “Didi you like the song? Do you want to come over and lay down the tracks to this one? I have another one I’m working on too.” It just came from there to us having five songs done and then two years later, he was like, “Let’s start finishing this.” We started banging them towards the end. We’d have no songs written and knock them out. At first, I was used to him having the song written, or at least the melody, but then he was like, “Hey, do you just want to write a song from scratch?” Some of our best tracks were just written at the end.

GREG: Yeah. I agree. Even some stuff, I brought in with lyrics, were built around the idea of Duane singing it too. So it’s not like, “Here’s my catalog of songs.” It was just everything that I came up specifically for this thing, and thinking about Duane and what would be great for him to sing. I would think up melodies and song titles and we’d get in the booth and talk about it. Then we’d work on another melody together and build it all out. It was a cool process. It really got great when we were sitting down in a room together and it was like, “Okay, let’s write these words.”  We’d do a chord change together and then put the song together. So it happens how it happened and it all goes into the pot at the end of the day.

Well, however it happened, it really works.
DP: Well, we spent three and half years on that record. Greg is a great producer, and that’s what you need, a producer that will totally drain you and give you headaches and make you suffer in the studio. That’s when you get the best stuff. And you’ve got to hate that guy when you leave.

GREG: [Laughs]

Well, Duane, how much time are you spending between music and skating?
DP: I don’t know. Whatever time is in between. I have a plan, but I just do whatever is in front of me, but I’m skating all the time because that’s what I do. I skate and then I do this music stuff and I do other stuff too.

What other stuff?
DP: Laughs. What other stuff? I don’t know. What do I do?

GREG: You’re a dad. You have kids. You have other music stuff going on. You have the Fuck Dolls shows and the Hunns shows coming up.

DP: I have a truck coming out.

I heard you just released a Fender acoustic guitar too.
Yeah. Fender did a really good job with it. They didn’t give me any of the cheap parts on this thing. They gave me a strat and it’s got really low action and a built in tuner and Fishman pickups. That’s what guys that customize their acoustic electrics use, so they’re already like modified guitars. They’re totally rad. Everyone that plays it loves it. I have the original one here and I have the very first factory made one, and I’m so stoked on these things. They really did me right. I’m really blown away.

That’s cool. We just got one of those Wayne Kramer strats in and it’s amazing. It’s cool because Wayne does this thing called Jail Guitar Doors where he goes into the prisons and hooks them up with guitars and stuff for the prisoners.
GREG: Yeah. I’ve heard about that. I’m into that. I love Wayne. He’s great. That’s a really cool thing that he does.

Yeah. So are you guys doing any tours for this record?
DP: No, not right now. We’re going to play some small lounges around L.A., Orange County and San Diego and just see how it does. We’ll just take it from there. We’ll wait to the record comes out and if 50 people buy it, then we can play a small club tour and then maybe 20 people will know some of the tunes and we’ll all have a good time.

If we do a Juice show, we’re going to be calling you guys to see if you want to play a gig with us.
GREG: That would be great.

Maybe we’ll get you back over to Wilmington, Duane.
DP: That would be great.

GREG: That would be cool. We’re both super busy with stuff, but we want to do some shows. We have to figure it out. You can’t just go, “Okay, let’s go on a month long tour.” We just have to see how it goes and do some shows and it will be cool. We’ll let it happen naturally. When the time is right, we’ll get out and do a little trip. We’re just going to play some shows around here and let people know about it and take it as it comes.

That’s cool. I’m down with that. Everything that you guys have said and done together seems really organic.
GREG: Yeah, you can bang your head against the wall with this kind of stuff, but it really doesn’t matter or make any difference when you do, so we just don’t do that anymore. You can stress out about it or worry about what it’s supposed to be, but we just do what feels right and things will run the course they’re supposed to. It’s cool. When it comes out, we’ll see what happens after we perform it a little bit.

Is there anything else you’re working on for the record or is it all done?
GREG: No. It’s done. It’s all the way finished. We’re not adding anything else.

Well, we’re really psyched on it. We haven’t had any negative feedback on it, and our audience can be sticklers about good music.
GREG:  That’s cool. It’s nice to know that people appreciate what you’re doing. It makes a difference when the punk rock fans and general music fans can appreciate the evolution of what we’re trying to do. It seems like there is some good response to it and that feels good.

Do you guys have plans to do another record after this?
DP: We’re definitely going to write another record. I want to write two more records at least, with this band, because we really got on a songwriting track that I want to check out because we were nailing a song a day, and that was like all the way. We were processing the thing from a pen and paper, to a piano, and by the end of the day, it was mastered with all the instruments on it. That was some chemistry. That was some good stuff. We could have made that a 20-song record, but we made ourselves stop. We want to get on a new track and get in a new mode. We want to get this chunk out of the way and play it live and see how it goes. Then we’ll go back to the studio and write and we’ll have even more to dissect and then do the trimming of the fat. That’s good songwriting.

GREG: We were talking yesterday, and we’d really like to get over to Europe and get the record out there and play there too. We just want to get the record out there. I don’t mean to sound lackadaisical about it, but you just have to do what’s warranted. I mean, it’s nice to have plans and goals and all that stuff, but you just have to kind of let that go too. We’re going to put it out on vinyl only at first, and then let people hear about it and find out about it. It’s not like, “Hey, okay, here’s our new record and here’s our world tour!” We’re just putting out a record and getting a few songs out there, and we’ll play a few shows. It’s not on a fast track. We’ll just take it as it comes.

DP: It’s not like, “We just got on Epitaph, and we have to shove it down your throat and the bomb drops on April 20th.” Then you have all of these kids you have to write for that are like, “Where is the fast song at the beginning?” There are certain things you have to do for certain labels, and we go, “You know, we can do whatever we want.” It’s like “Who is even going to like this?” We’re our own worst critics. We could have killed the whole band right out of the gate, but we were like, “We’re not on a label, so we’ll just roll with it.” Greg had already started it, so all I had to do was agree and go with it. So I was like, “All right, man. Let’s do it.” We just pieced it out. Hopefully, people will buy it and and hopefully it will end up on some good comps and downloads after vinyl. Hopefully, we’ll get to take it to Europe, and then do some major cities in the States, and tour the East Coast and West Coast. If we can knock all that out in a year or so, then we can get back in the studio and make another record. Maybe we’ll get some label love. We just gave it to a record store that’s starting a label, and we figured that was the most grassroots way to start. Neither me or Greg wanted to knock on any label doors.

That’s where I first heard the record. I heard it from Drak at Vinyl Solution. I showed up there the same day he had just gotten it and he was listening to it. I said, “Who is this? I love that.” He said “That’s Duane.” Then he was telling me about Black Vinyl and what they were doing, and that made me even more interested in your project, because DIY is really what we’re all about, so that’s cool.
GREG: Yeah, it’s exciting because having Lucero involved is great. Having Darren at Vinyl Solution is great. You want to have cool people do this thing that aren’t into it because they think it’s going to sell a couple of million records, but because they really want to put out a great record and it’s really something they like. They want it to look cool and put it out on vinyl first and do it as a cool art project. It’s cool to have them involved and excited about it for sure.

Well, I think we got it. It was really cool to talk with you guys. Thanks for doing this.
DP: Yeah, this was good. Thank you.

GREG: Yes, thank you.

 

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